By the time you read this, I’ll likely be on the road, driving the eight-hour trek from California to Oregon to move our eldest daughter out of her college dorm and back home for summer break. I’m a big fan of travel and hold fond memories of my family’s summer road trips. And while this road trip isn’t a necessarily a vacation, it is an opportunity for an exciting journey.
What if you imagined your career in the same way?
Whether you’re a new grad or a few decades post-graduation, you have an opportunity to ensure that your professional journey is one to remember. Here are seven road trip-inspired rules to help you navigate your career:
1. Begin your journey with a smile and a sense of wonder.
We have many “beginnings” in our journeys: our first job fresh out of school, tackling a new industry, serving in a leadership position, or perhaps founding our own business. When you start your journey with positivity, you bring an infectious energy and enthusiasm to all that you do. And coupled with curiosity—about your new role, industry, and the people with whom you’ll interact—you’ll have a winning combination to kick off your professional journey.
2. Make sure to keep your tank full.
It’s easy to get caught up in your projects and to-do lists and forget to top off the one thing that powers your professional growth: your brain. Rather than rest on your laurels, passively letting time (and skill sets and knowledge) pass you by, adopt a growth mindset where you believe you can—and will—improve, and view every opportunity as a chance to grow and learn. Use your creativity to explore new subjects and acquire the expertise to keep yourself engaged and up your professional value.
3. Don’t forget to make pit stops along the way.
Achievements are great; glossing over them is not. You’ll likely have a decades-long career, so don’t forget to take breaks to celebrate your small wins along the way. By regularly practicing gratitude, you’ll appreciate your progress and journey even more.
4. Sometimes you have to drive through uninspiring terrain to get to the scenic view — use that time wisely.
Even the most celebrated careers in the world contain long, boring stretches where we feel like we’re merely coasting. Instead of complaining and going through the motions, use that precious time to evaluate where you’ve been, where you are now and where you’d like to be. Asking yourself what you want will help you gain clarity on your goals. And if you find that what you want isn’t what you currently have, you can use grit to keep going through the uninspiring terrain of your current situation to get to a more scenic vista.
5. A fantastic playlist is essential.
Your “music,” that is, what and whom you listen to during your career journey can make all the difference. To that end, surround yourself with those friends and mentors who lift you up and support you, who challenge you to be the best version of you, and who encourage the highest and best use of your talents. Make sure that they also hold you accountable, and that they, too, are practicing what they preach. And augment these people with habits and behaviors that support your growth. How you choose to spend your time—and with whom—matters. Your environment always wins; choose wisely.
6. It’s more fun when you have travel buddies.
In your career, no one goes it alone; relationships are everything. Your ability to connect with others matters, whether you’re trying to collaborate or communicate with them. When you adjust your perspective and increase your awareness that people power business, you’ll naturally employ empathy to put yourself in their shoes to better understand your colleagues and clients.
7. Don’t be afraid to take a detour.
Plan ahead, but leave yourself room for unexpected opportunities and possibilities. Some of the most exciting—and fulfilling—career moves happen when you deviate from a non-linear path.
Remember, a road trip is all about adventure—why not your career, too?